Pakistan closes US-funded Radio Mashaal

Islamabad:The Pashto-language station of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been closed by the Pakistani government, officials said on Saturday.

The Pakistan government closed down Radio Mashaal station on Friday night for allegedly broadcasting “content against the national interests of Pakistan”, Interior Ministry spokesperson Yasir Shakeel told Efe news agency.

RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal posted on its website the notification issued by the ministry, ordering its closure and alleging that the country’s main intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), believes the programmes it broadcast were “in line with (a) hostile intelligence agency’s agenda”.

The notification accuses Radio Mashaal of portraying Pakistan as “a hub of terrorism and (a) safe haven for militant groups”, “a failed state” and inciting members of the Pashtun ethnic minority – which account for around 30 million of the 207 million inhabitants of Pakistan – against the government.

In a statement issued by the station in Islamabad, RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said he was “urgently seeking more information about the Pakistani authorities’ intentions.”

Kent stressed that RFE/RL was a “private news organization supported by the US Congress with no connection to the intelligence agencies of any country.”

The closure is the latest blow to US-Pakistani relations after Washington announced it would be suspending security aid to Islamabad amounting to $900 million until Pakistan takes decisive action in rooting out terrorist factions operating on its territory.

US President Donald Trump has also accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit”, comments which led to mass anti-US protests in Pakistan earlier this month.

The US and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of providing refuge to the Taliban’s Haqqani network, which stages attacks on US and Afghan troops, a claim that Islamabad denies.